Centre hosts first newly launched Public Engagement Awards

On April 2019, the Centre held its first ever Public Engagement Awards ceremony in our offices in central London. These awards celebrated the success of the Centre’s public engagement activity over the past year, and recognised and rewarded the fantastic members of our team who have been particularly instrumental in these efforts.

A total of five awards were presented at the awards ceremony, in front of an audience of staff members, external public engagement partner organisations and project participants. The awardees were all selected by the Centre’s Public Engagement Steering Committee. This year, the Committee were delighted to present the prizes to the following fantastic awardees:

Rising Star Awards: A prize for a staff member who has shown outstanding promise and attitude towards public engagement.

This year, this Award recognised two brilliant staff members for their contributions:

Dr Andrew McWilliams, Clinical Research Fellow, who helped to develop the MetaLab’s Metacogmission project through developing a public-facing app. Andrew led a team of researchers to host an interactive stall at the Tate Modern’s Self-Impressions event in March 2018 which provided important road-testing and improvement opportunities for the app.

Dr Tim Tierney: As a postdoctoral researcher in Gareth Barnes’ MEG lab, Tim plays a crucial role in public engagement events that range from inset days to an upcoming large scale collaborative engagement project with Young Epilepsy.

After being awarded the Rising Star Award, Tim reflected: “I had never done any public engagement before joining the centre and the idea of winning an award for public engagement seemed like something that “other researchers did”, but not me. However, under the public engagement team’s guidance, I found myself enjoying public engagement but never feeling overwhelmed by the extra work it required. As a result, by the end of year, I realised that I had participated in quite a lot of public engagement events unintentionally!”

Excellence in Public Engagement Award: For a staff member who has played a key role in engagement work, including demonstrating a strong understanding of public engagement in research.

This year, nobody was surprised to see this award go to Rachel Bedder for her work as lead scientist on Dear World Project. With a background in art and science engagement projects, Rachel is a stand-out contributor to our Centre’s public engagement programme whilst she studies for her PhD at the Rutledge Lab, at Max Planck Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research.

On winning, Rachel said: “I was really pleased to win the award, especially as there have been so many cool new projects this year, with lots of individuals working really hard towards developing ways for their research to be communicated in an accessible and interactive way!”

Outstanding Public Engagement Project: Awarded to an entire engagement project which aligns with the vision and aims of the Centre’s PE strategy.

The PLORAS (Predicting Language Outcomes and Recovery After Stroke) research group were delighted to accept this prize for their work over the year on workshops, talks and activities though Aphasia workshops, UCL World Stroke Day Forum and the Centre’s In2science programme. The team, consists of Prof Cathy Price, Dr Andrea Gajardo Vidal, Dr Diego Lorca Puls, Megan Docksey, Shamima Khan, Hayley Woodgate, Kate Ledingham, Sophie Roberts, Justyna Ekert, Sharon Geva and Storm Anderson. Although there was tough competition in this category, this team’s firm commitment to public engagement, much enthusiasm and continual improvement, crowned them this year’s winners.

Steering Committee Honorary Award:

A surprise ending to the awards presentation included an extra, unadvertised award: an Honorary Award for someone who has gone above and beyond for Public Engagement time and again. This Award was presented to David Bradbury, Lab Manager and all round hero at the Centre. David co-ordinated public engagement at our Centre before a formal team existed, and by doing so, both laid the foundations for public engagement at the Centre and continues to work tirelessly to ensure that the current PE team can fulfil their role.

After being awarded this unique prize, David reflected on his public engagement contributions including school visits to the Centre. He explains that getting these groups in is always refreshing, “you get so used to the environment here you forget it’s special and then it’s always surprising when the kids are so amazed by the equipment and scanners”.

These awards are a new initiative, launched to support a culture of public engagement that is embedded into practice and valued by staff. All researchers and support staff within the Centre are eligible for the awards, which aim to give support, encouragement and formally recognise staff achievement.

After the event, Cassie Hugill, Public Engagement Manager and Chair of the Public Engagement Steering Committee said:

‘The Awards were a highlight of the year for the public engagement team. It’s a chance to recognise the brilliant contributions of the staff at the Centre but also to reflect on what we have achieved.’

The Awards Ceremony will now be held annually, with next year’s event due to be held in May 2020.

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